We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Wednesday, Sept. 21, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Not great with a secret
Alex Hornibrook isn’t only inexperienced playing quarterback in college. He also showed on Tuesday that he may still need some more work dealing with the media.
A day after his coach, Paul Chryst, said he’d let their work this week decide whether the redshirt freshman or Bart Houston would get the call to start against Michigan State, Hornibrook surprisingly answered in the affirmative when asked whether he’d be under center to open the game.
What happened after he answered is the funny part and is not shown in the edited version of the video put out by Wisconsin. When pressed with a question of whether the coaches had told him he’d be starting, he excused himself and had a brief conversation with two members of Wisconsin’s athletic communications staff. When he returned, he was asked again if he’d be starting.
“Coach is getting us both ready to go,” Hornibrook said. “If I’m the guy, I’m ready to go. If Bart’s the guy, I’m ready for that, too.”
Anyway, Hornibrook said he heard he was starting Saturday before interrupting the interview. When he returned, he said both would be ready.
— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) September 20, 2016
That Hornibrook is even having to keep up the charade of whether he’s starting or not is somewhat ridiculous. The kid is about to make his first career start in one of the tougher environments the Big Ten offers, and he’s having to play coy with the media over a decision that already has been made.
Past battles remembered
Wisconsin and Michigan State haven’t played since 2012, but the memories of the almost yearly battles prior to that still reverberate in and around the Badgers program.
The two games in 2011 — a Spartans victory on a ‘Hail Mary’ in the regular season and a Badgers victory in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game — rank among the lowest of lows and highest of highs in Wisconsin history.
As Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains, the games usually meant a lot and are recalled with fondness by Chryst and others.
“I think we knew each other well,” Chryst said. “They knew what we were going to do. … There were certain things you knew you were going to see and then you knew you were going to get a change-up.
“That was always challenging. What I think what it was mostly, or as much, is that those games meant something.”
The fact the two programs were fighting for national relevancy at the same time — Wisconsin under former coach Bret Bielema and Michigan State under Mark Dantonio — turned the heat up in the games. And it’ll be the case again on Saturday.
Yes, it’s early in the season. This is only the first conference game for both teams. But each knows it’ll be vital in the fight to contend for a Big Ten title and perhaps a berth into the College Football Playoff. A loss by either isn’t season-crushing, but it’s damaging.
But if you were to ask which team needs this win the most, it’s easily Wisconsin. Michigan State likely won’t play another ranked team until hosting Michigan on Oct. 29. The Badgers, meanwhile, will almost certainly play at least four ranked teams in their next five games.
With that schedule on the horizon, a win over the Spartans in East Lansing, a place Wisconsin hasn’t won since 2002, could give the Badgers a jumpstart for the toughest five-game stretch the school has seen in at least the last 20 years.
Man of his word
Nigel Hayes says a lot, both on the court and off. One of the biggest jokers and trash-talkers on the Wisconsin basketball team, the senior will almost always say what’s on his mind.
That was no different when he challenged Wisconsin students to sell out the student section in under five minutes, and if they did, he’d deliver doughnuts to everyone who got tickets. Well, they did it in three minutes and started asking for their doughnuts soon after. On Monday, Hayes responded.
A man always keeps his promise.
See you Friday! ??? pic.twitter.com/UUYdqg8Uyt
— Nigel Hayes (@NIGEL_HAYES) September 20, 2016
But Hayes wasn’t the lone player connected to Wisconsin basketball to put out a video on Monday. Former Badgers forward Sam Dekker, who is about to start his second season with the Houston Rockets, posted what appears to be his audition for the WWE.
— Sam Dekker (@dekker) September 20, 2016
Wisconsin fans have been blessed with players that both excel on the court and being colorful characters off of it. With Hayes, Dekker and another former player, Frank Kaminsky, the Badgers have been among the most entertaining teams to cover in recent years.
It’s far from the norm in what is rapidly becoming a sterilized and structured environment for college sports. Enjoy them while you can.
Days gets his offer
The state of Wisconsin has produced some big-time basketball talents over the last five to six years. From first-round picks like Kevon Looney and Sam Dekker to second-round selections like Diamond Stone and J.P. Tokoto, the Badger state can hold its own on the national stage. And one of the next major talents in the pipeline just got offered by Wisconsin and coach Greg Gard.
— the_kang4 (@nobaldays) September 20, 2016
Just a sophomore, power forward Nobal Days is rated as the No. 26 player in the country in his class, and the No. 1 player in the state, according to 247Sports. His offer sheet is still developing, but includes one from another local school, Marquette.
Days is one of three kids in the state’s class of 2019 that are considered 4-star prospects. Combine that with a pair of 4-star players in the class of 2018, and the Badgers could thrive if they are able to keep a handful of them home. So far, Gard and his staff have shown an ability to do that.